18 June 2011

Crispy spicy okra salad

Do you have a cookbook that is the star of your cooking bookshelf? One from which every recipe you try makes you just say...WOW!!!? For me, this book is American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen by Indian celebrity chef Suvir Saran. I picked up this book after eating at and loving his (formerly Michelin starred) restaurant Devi in New York, and let me tell you, this is one of the best cookbooks ever! Mostly focused on the theme of spicing up American classics with Indian spices and techniques, every single thing that I've made from this book, be it super simple or more elaborate, has been just wonderful. This crispy salad of fried okra strips tossed with tomato, red onion and coriander and seasoned with Indian chaat masala, chili powder and a bit of salt is the perfect example. It's so simple yet delicious and perfect for a dinner party or whenever you want to impress somebody!

Okra, which here in Paris I buy at Indian grocery stores or the African market in my neighborhood, is a very interesting vegetable. In India, we use it in all kinds of curries and stews. But okra is originally from Africa, and is still a key ingredient in many of the continent's cuisines. Even the word gombo which is used to describe okra in French is actually a Bantu word. Africans also brought okra to the New World with them, as can be seen in dishes such as the Cajun gumbo and the fried okra that is enjoyed in the American South. Now...I know that some of you out there don't like okra and complain about its supposed slimy texture, but I guarantee that you won't be complaining about it in this dish. Fried into crispy strips and spiced up, you - just like the friends of ours who we originally served this to - probably won't even recognize that it's okra!

As for the chaat masala which seasons this salad, the word chaat is a ubiquitous Hindi word that is used to refer to any manner of savory snacks in India, typically consumed at roadside or beachside stalls. Classic chaat dishes include bhel puri, pav bhaji and aloo tikki as well as things like samosas and pakoras topped with chutneys and yogurt. Check out this typical chaat stall at Mumbai's famous Chowpatty Beach!

Chaat masala is a sweet and sour masala or spice mix, typically made with a mixture of dried mango powder (amchur), cumin, black salt (kala namak), coriander, ginger, black pepper, hing (asafoetida) and chili powder. Chaat masala along with a bit of fresh lemon juice seasons all kinds of fruit or vegetable salads which are then served as chaat. These salads are so refreshing and delicious and are perfect on their own or as side dishes...they are in fact one of my favorite parts of Indian cuisine! There are many different brands of chaat masala available at Indian grocery stores, but I personally prefer the Shan brand.

Just a little word about this recipe's author Suvir Saran...not only is he a great restaurateur and cookbook author (in addition to American Masala, his Indian Home Cooking and newest book Masala Farm also get rave reviews)...he is also a really nice guy! Not that I know him personally, but I was once so ecstatic about an incredible eggplant dish with tamarind sauce that I made from American Masala that I was compelled to Tweet about it, mentioning his name. He actually sent me an email thanking me for the Tweet, saying he would let his Aunty Abha who inspired the dish know that she was now a part of the Twitter universe and also wishing me a happy married life (it was not long after my wedding). Isn't that so nice?!?!? I was genuinely touched...and starstruck too! So definitely buy his books in my Amazon store...and make this crispy spicy okra salad ASAP...you won't be sorry!

Adapted from Suvir Saran
Serves 4

1/2 kilogram / 1 pound whole okra
Canola oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large or two small ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons chaat masala
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chili powder (to taste)
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1. Wash and train the okra. Trim the ends.

2. Cut the okra into four lengthwise.

3. In a wok or a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350 F / 175 C. Fry the okra in 2-3 batches until crispy and golden on the edges, which generally takes about 5-7 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

4. Pat the okra dry with additional paper towels and mix well in a large bowl with the onion, tomato, lemon juice, chaat masala, salt, chili powder and coriander.


  1. I really like Suvir Saran and this cookbook too. I have his mushroom Biriyani on my blog and it's wonderful. He's a great chef and I totally love this okra dish. Great job. : )

  2. Thank you for sharing this lovely post. Good job :-)

  3. I grew up on fried okra and its okay. It wasn't until I moved to Cayman that I got exposed to India spices and flavors. I can imagine how wonderfully it dresses up okra. Thanks so much for sharing! Buzzed :)

  4. Oh, what a gorgeous looking okra dish! The unappealing okra looks so very tempting! I have to say the ugly duckling has turned into a swan!- Mom

  5. I thought of adding a little hint about okra. If you have the time, wash okra ahead of time, let it dry completely and wipe with paper towel and then cut it. This will cut down on the sliminess while cutting it. While cutting, you can also wipe off the knife with a paper towel in between. If you wash it and cut wet okra it will be very slimy.

  6. I've always thought of okra as a Southern American soul food type of vegetable. Who knew it could be so versatile?!

  7. I have not read the book yet but yours is good enough to see how lovely the recipes will be.

    I make this too at home and the masala I get at Malaysia is called "garam masala".

    This is a lovely fried and crunchy side dish and a great combo with sambar or rasam.

  8. Curry and Comfort - Thanks! I have his mushroom biryani bookmarked to try. Good to know that it's as good as it sounds in the book!

    John - Merci!

    Parsley Sage - I'm so fascinated that you can find Indian spices and flavors in Cayman. But I guess it's not surprising considering the Indian influence in general in the Caribbean!

    Mom - Thanks for the tip! I'll try it the next time I make this or another okra dish.

    Annie Oakley - Yes, okra is very versatile! In Indian cuisine, we make all kinds of interesting things with it :-)

    Nava - Yes I bet this would be delicious with sambhar or rasam...great idea, thanks!

  9. I learned to love okra while living in Texas where it was abundant during the summer. Now, living in Washington, I snatch up as much as I can carry when I see it at the markets! I'll be keeping this recipe on the back-burner for the next time okra pops up- looks wonderful!

  10. Spicy AND crispy? Oh, yes, Please!

  11. What a great salad you have here! I love the addition of fried okra strips in it! And chaat masala?? YUM! I love the picture of the chaat stall in Chowpatty! It reminds me of the amazing bhel puris I have had in Mumbai! yum!

  12. Bhindi is my hubby's fav vegi and this is how I make for him cause he likes it only and only this way :)

  13. i grew up with steamed okra .. i think i should try this one.. i love eating spicy dish .. thanks for the recipe..

  14. Looks great my hubby like okra must try ur version.

  15. How cool that he wrote back to you! :)
    I have never tasted okra. I don't recall seeing them to buy here unfortunately. But I do love the colours in your dish!

  16. Okra is something I never buy, because I just don't know what to do with it...but NOW I do!

  17. Ramya-I love your spicy okra, with all the crunchy and flavorful veggies combined. Everything you makes is bursting with bright colors, and robust flavors. Yummm!!!

  18. This has been in my bookmarked folder forever , I think its about time :)
    Beautifully done n nicely taken pics!
    US Masala

  19. Hey, this is a real twist in salad-making, man! Fried okra strips and chaat masala would add a different level altogether to this salad dish. Loved the recipe.

  20. Thanks for sharing this and I love the story about your tweet. Doesn't it make you smile when some appreciates a small gesture. As for the okra, I promise I will never look with suspicion at another okra in the store :) I have always wondered how the vegetable is cooked ... now I know! You have a lovely blog and am adding myself to the followers. I hope you enjoy mine too.

  21. I like this recipe from Suvir Saran , but am very afraid of frying things. Tried the same baked and it turned out almost as good. If you like okra, try the grilled okra at http://omnivore-almostveg.blogspot.com/search/label/okra